From’s "Design It" to Professional Designer

Published On April 19, 2011 » 1917 Views» By admin »

It was late on a cold winter day as I was working on livery designs for the ever popular “Design It” program that I got a phone call from a strange number. “Hello — This is Mike”, I said… “Mike, I’ve seen your designs on and wanted you to design a car for me,” said the caller. “Certainly, who’s this?” I replied. “This is Jay Penske.”

Understandably, I was shocked and honored. Here was the son of the greatest car owner in motorsports, calling me to design the car they’d race in the 2008 INDYCAR season, the popular Symantec #12 Dallara for Luczo Dragon Racing. He’d been a big fan of my designs on and gotten in touch with me. I got to work immediately!

Fast forward a few years, a few new friendships, and several years of designs for Luczo Dragon/ DeFerran Dragon Racing, to February 2011. The news had recently broken that DeFerran Dragon racing was ceasing operations. Soon after, the phone rang with another opportunity from Jay and team manager John “JC” Cummiskey. Jay, JC and a skeleton crew were working hard to put together a program to keep Dragon Racing alive and needed my help in designing liveries for sponsorship proposals. One of those designs, came to life this past weekend when INDYCAR star Paul Tracy took the reigns of the Ralph’s Supermarkets / Pepsi / Frito Lay / Rockstar Energy Drink / Berringer Vineyards Dallara at Long Beach Grand Prix for Dragon Racing.

Paul Tracy on course at the 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Paul Tracy on course at the 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Dragon Racing has always been wonderful when it comes to my creative freedom. I’m generally given a sponsor or two and am free to “go for it” to come up with an eye-catching design. This makes the design process much simpler, as there is no “box” to stay within. The design process for this particular car was quite simple once I got started. Ralph’s has such an iconic, clean, and classic logo that I wanted to make sure the paint scheme fit along with it. I also wanted to incorporate the Red/Black/White colors synonymous with the Dragon Racing logo. We also wanted to be sure to cleanly blend the logos of PT’s wonderful sponsor, Motegi Wheels into the mix.

The best way to accomplish this, was a white base. After sorting logo placements for Ralph’s, Motegi, and other partners I went to work sketching different line schemes on the model until I ended up with the design that will be raced on Sunday.

One of the benefits to working in 3D as I do is the ability to “rotate” the car at any angle needed. I was able to design this car, along with all others in the past, by sketching directly on a virtual INDYCAR, just like it were sitting in front of me. This is a benefit over working in 2D, for me, because I’m able to better visualize the final product at a multitude of viewing angles without redrawing the design multiple times at multiple angles. Until the next time, happy designing!

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